30 November 2009

Recent Wines

The following were enjoyed with dinner in the past week.

Remhoogte 2008
WO Stellenbosch

Subdued blackberry nose and sweet blueberry flavours. An elegant refined wine with a spicy flourish at the end.

Du Toitskloof 2007
WO Western Cape

A little coffee on the nose. Lively welcoming wine. Berry fruits just jump out of glass. There’s coffee and black-forest gateau on the palate. A really enjoyable wine.

Fairview 2007
WO Coastal
Ripe rich berries with vanilla and coffee on the finish, a lovely full bodied wine.

Cardouw 2002
WO Western Cape
Showing signs of age, fruit tasting stewed and fading in the glass. 2002 wasn’t the greatest vintage and if you have any of this wine I’d suggest drink it now.

Welbedacht 2006
WO Wellington
Full bodied, big wine. Galumphing backberry fruits, some grip, great drinking!


28 November 2009

Backsberg Pinotage 2007

To Backsberg near Paarl for their spit-roasted lamb with crunchy potatoes accompanied by some very welcome fresh vegetables; simply steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

Although it is delightfully warm it is too windy to dine outside under the trees so we go indoors where we are well looked after by friendly Luciano Blouws.

Their wine list suggested that Pinotage makes a good lamb pairing and I needed no encouragement. The 2007 has a dense ruby colour and forthright smoky nose. Oodles of blackberry fruit flavours assail the palate, followed by a sweetness with some medium firm tannins. Lovely drinking now –especially with lamb – and I’d be interested in seeing this with a few more years bottle age as I think it will develop very attractively.
See also this previous post about Backsberg's spit roast lamb here

27 November 2009

Rijk’s Pinotage is Best SA Red

Congratulations to Rijks Private Cellar in Tulbagh in winning ‘Best South African Red’ for their Rijk’s Pinotage Reserve 2006 at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition.

The competition's four-day judging session, featuring an Asian judging panel (pictured), was held in the first week of November. With around 1300 entries the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong IWSC claims to be the largest pan-Asian wine competition.
Picture: Judging panel at work

26 November 2009

Isabelo Pinotage Sweeps the Board

Congratulations to all involved in Isabelo Pinotage which swept the board at the annual Fairtrade Wine Competition, announced at Vinopolis in London on 19 November.

The same wine also won the Trophy for Best Overall Fairtrade Red Wine and the Certificate for Best Fairtrade South African Red, thus sweeping the board in every available category.

82 wines from Argentina, Chile and South Africa entered this year, compared to 61 last year, a 34% increase.

The judging panel, chaired by Louise Vaux of the Wine & Spirit Trust, was: Sarah Jane Evans MW, Tim Atkin MW, Patricia Langton, Susan McCraith MW, Jo Ahearne MW, (M&S), Michelle Smith, (Sainsbury’s), Becca Reeves, (formerly of Asda, now Direct wines), Graham Nash, (Tesco), Jaspar Corbett (Alan Titchmarsh daytime TV Show).

Congratulations to all involved.


25 November 2009

Vin de Francois Charity Auction

There's just a week left to run for the on-line auction for the second vintage of François Naudé’s ‘Le Vin de François’.

François’ reputation as a master of Pinotage was earned while working at L’Avenir Estate where he won ABSA Pinotage Top 10 seven times. After retiring from L’Avenir he was besieged with requests for his knowledge and now he offers consultation services to a number of top wineries. And, with Pinotage in his blood, François couldn’t resist making wine for himself. Part of his consultancy fee includes the option of a barrel of Pinotage and he chooses ones best suited to make his dream blend which he named ‘Vin de François’.

The label was designed by well known designer Haumann Smal features a wing-nut design symbolizing the clasping together of family ideals, with the different wines from a variety of terroirs. But it also is a tongue-in-mouth reference to François distinctive ears.

But you can’t pop down to supermarket to buy this wine. Interested parties are invited to an auction. They are taken to a secret venue – this year it was Croydon Olive Estate Lifestyle Centre which ‘was transformed into a 1930’s Speakeasy Club with entertainment and food by celebrity chefs.

This year 36 people made successful bids, paying in total R720,000 for 200 cases of twelve bottles.

Only 2600 bottles of the 2008 vintage were produced, and 3 cases (36 bottles) are being offered to the general public via an online auction at http://www.levindefrancois.com/, with all proceeds being donated to the FAITH Foundation which fight against Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

I tasted this wine last week with François (pictured) who says that the 2008 vintage “was excellent from a point of view of elegance and balance.” The wine had been in bottle for just a month and had an excellent deep colour with restrained fruit and tannins and the sense of locked up potential.

If you are in the Cape you may be interested in bottles of 2007 vintage which I noted on sale at 400R in Delheim winery’s tasting cellar.

Visit http://www.levindefrancois.com/ for more information and to bid.

Riebeek’s Pasta Pairing Perfection

With only two Pinotages on the restaurant wine list I plumped for Riebeek Cellars 2007.

Gosh, what a pleasure it is. It is unwooded and comes in a screwcap closed bottle so it was clean and fresh tasting and the waiter didn’t have to wave it around while struggling with a corkscrew.

What bowled me over was the amount of smooth rounded fruit flavours they’d packed into it for the price. Just great drinking without having to think too much, but with some spicy herby flavours it’s a bit more than just a fruit bomb. This is the wine to buy a case of to have ready any time you want to just grab a bottle and quickly crack that cap.

And it made a great pairing for my pasta dish.


24 November 2009

Bergkelder Release Mature Pinotages

Celebrating their 25th anniversary the Bergkelder Vinoteque is releasing 25 mature wines including four Pinotages. The price includes delivery in South Africa.

Jacobsdal Pinotage 2000 12x750ml R 877.00
Stellenzicht Pinotage Golden Triangle 2003 12x750ml R 895.00
Tukulu Pinotage 2002 6x750ml R 554.00
Zonnebloem Pinotage (in Wooden box ) 2004 12x750ml R 576.00

For details and order form go to www.vinoteque.co.za

23 November 2009

Somerbosch Winery Bistro

Somerbosch is on the R44 close to Somerset West and although I have driven past it many times I have not stopped. But I heard that they do a good lunch there so one dismal day we tried it.

Their bistro is in a flagstone floored old barn. A dozen or so tables are set out, there’s an open fire in a huge fireplace with sofas set in front and a most charming and helpful waitress. Also, rather disconcertingly, a small open office at the entrance where someone is continually clacking away on a keyboard.

What to choose? We plump for the alliterative Kudu Kebabs which come with a goodly portion of roasted veggies, a mound of tiny new potatoes and the most scrumptious black sauce made from mulberries. A neighbouring table have roast duck which they highly recommend and tell us is the reason they keep returning.

A bottle of Somerbosch 2007 Pinotage at 55R (£4.60/$9.20) is a good match. It offers bright red cherry fruit flavours and is soft and generous.

I couldn’t resist Pinotage ice-cream which comes with that delightful Pinotage purple colour but its texture is disappointingly chewy and cloying.

We leave with another bottle of Pinotage (47R retail) and a Shiraz which is on sale at a bargain 25R (£2/$4) (and is almost as nice as the Pinotage) and a determination to return to try the duck next time.


22 November 2009

P & O’s Pinotage Picks

Michael Olivier and Neil Pendock (P & O) recommended 45 Pinotages in their new People’s Guide 2010. (see review posted yesterday). Four of them are singled out to receive Coup de Coeur (blow to the heart) awards. They are

Zonnebloem 2007 (under 50R) which is described as “Elegance and excitement, big yummy, coconut there too. Delicious aftertaste.” Neil adds that “there was cooing around the room when we tasted this wine.”

Beaumont 2006 (50-100R) – “Bright fresh, sweet cherry nose. Plums and vanilla – finishes dry.

Bellevue Morkel 2007 (50-100R) – “Smoky coffee. Big chewy fruit and toasty vanilla with a long and lingering finish.”

Clos Malverne Reserve 2007 (Over 100R) – “Chocolate mint crunch. Sweet chocolate, some banana and plums.”

The omissions are intriguing. No Kanonkop, Ashbourne, L’Avenir Grand Vin, or DeWaal Top of the Hill. Beyerskloof Reserve is included, but not its cheaper standard bottling, although in the book Michael calls that “one of the great wines of South Africa.” Two coffee’n’chocolate Pinotages are there – Diemersfontein and Café Culture – accompanied by swipes at the ABSA Top 10 competition for ignoring them, but Bertus Fourie’s Barista and Boland’s Cappuccino are left out. Stellenzichts second label Hill & Dale makes it but not Stellenzicht’s multi-award winning Golden Triangle.

I have just got to get that Zonnebloem to see if it makes me coo.


21 November 2009

The People's Guide 2010 -- Book Review

Columnist and fearlessly outspoken chronicler of the wine industry Neil Pendock has become increasingly critical of the popular annual Platter Guide for its policy of tasting wines ‘sighted’, in other words reviewers see the label of the wine they taste. Pendock’s feud with Platter is so deep that he cannot now mention its name without using the prefix ‘sighted’.

“It was time I had to put up or shut up,” he told me, handing over a hot-off-the-press copy of his new ‘People’s Guide 2010’. For this review Pendock together with Michael Olivier and a small team tasted 1200 wines unsighted over six days and selected 561 recommendations. The book’s cover claims ‘blind-tasted wines are honest wines.’

The paperback book is most attractively designed and printed in full colour with a photograph of every bottle, and stripes with coloured backgrounds giving an initial tasting note with additional comments from one or more of the judges complete with a ‘Did You Know’ odd fact and technical details of appellation, alcohol and sugar levels.

Wines that particularly impressed the judges are awarded a Coup de Coeur (blow to the heart) and given an entire page to themselves.

Wines are not rated; they are described “using plain language rather than scores out of 20 or 100 or awarding stars. After all, it’s about writing, not arithmetic and best is a matter of personal opinion.”

So inclusion in the book is the recommendation – and almost 50% of the wines tasted were. 76 wines were awarded a Coup de Coeur, (That is around 6% compared with 42 (0.5%) Five Star wines out of 8000 rated in Platter.

So how does the People’s Guide compare with Platter? Platter attempts to rate every South African wine giving a necessarily cryptic tasting note and a rating from zero to 5 stars.

The Peoples Guide uses ‘plain language rather than scores’ and yet the tasting notes are brief in the extreme. Whereas Platter is limited by space, even when a full page is dedicated to a Coup de Coeur wine its description can be as short as six words, for instance Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2007 is summed up as “Wham. Intense sour cherries, smooth fresh.”

However this is a different guide. There are also exuberant food matching comments from ex-restaurateur Michael Olivier which range from “a pasta-sorta wine” (De Grendel 2006 Merlot) to “would go with Karoo Muisies, little liver cakes wrapped in caul fat and cooked over coals” (Long Mountain Reserve Pinotage 2007). Other tasters add in their comments from succinct to wordy plus those intriguing ‘did you know’ quirky facts.

There are signs of a rush to get to print with several typos and one entry being repeated in its entirety, and I wondered whether “Pinotage nose with plums and berries” was an accurate descriptor for a Sauvignon Blanc.

But minor quibbles aside, this is a good looking, readable and interesting book which doesn’t claim to be comprehensive but if you choose your wine from its recommendations you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s hoping Pendock & Olivier can keep it going for the next 30 years!

The People’s Guide 2010:
navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley
by Michael Olivier & Neil Pendock with Anibal Coutinho
99 Rand
304 pages including advertisements.
Published by Whisk Publications
ISBN 978-0-620-44882-6

20 November 2009

Five Decades of Pinotage

Beyers Truter, Chairman of the producers Pinotage Association and owner of Beyerskloof Winery, invited a group including winemakers and journalists to his beach side house in Vermont, near Hermanus, this week for a tasting of Pinotages covering five decades from the 1960’s to now. Among those present were Pinotage winemakers Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop Estate), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht Estate), Hannes Storme (Ashbourne, Southern Right), DeWet Viljoen (Neethlingshof Estate) and writers Christian Eeedes, Emile Joubert, Fiona McDonald, Neil Pendock and myself.

There were five flights of wines, one for each decade, starting with the 1960s. The first varietal Pinotage that was commercially available was the 1959 vintage released under Stellenbosch Farmers Winery’s Lanzerac brand.

The tasting was chaired by Pinotage Association Executive Committee member Duimpie Bayley CWM

Abrie Beeslaar pours Lanzerac 1963 for Beyers Truter and DeWet Viljoen shares a joke with Fiona McDonald while pouring the Lanzerac 1969

Lanzerac 1963

Clear brilliant brick colour but not looking as old as its years. The wine has been decanted so there hardly any sediment in the glass.

The nose is of a mature long aged wine and reminiscent of toffee.

First impression on tasting is of a thin wine, soft with cough drop and savoury flavours -- Neil Pendock thought "umami" -- and high acidity. It has a surprisingly long finish.

Lanzerac 1969

Deep red core, bricking at edges and some fine grainy black sediment – though I had a pour from the last of the bottle.

Lavender fruit on nose.

More fruit on this wine, red currants and berries, lick of cedar and again high acidity.

The wine is sweet and drinkable with fruits though thinning.

This flight was a real surprise. Two wines made more than forty years ago from young vines of a new variety, and made for immediate drinking have shown an amazing staying power. Duimpie Bayley says they have been stored in optimum conditions -- around 16 degrees -- in an underground cellar. The corks were in good condition.

Duimpie says they used to harvest between 22-24 brix so the finished wine would be about 12-13% abv and “they had a formula, or recipe, in that they’d regularly add a pound (456 grammes) of tartaric acid to a leaguer (575 litres) of juice. In those days no fining was done, they’d age in large 1,000 and 4,000 litre wooden barrels.

Duimpie worked at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW), who owned the Lanzerac brand and introduced Pinotage to the market. The first Pinotage was in a claret shaped bottle but from the 1960 vintage they used a bowling pin shaped bottle for the range as it was new and fashionable though not without its problems.

“Bowling pins are designed to fall when knocked and then to tip over neighbouring pins,” said Duimpie, “and when running the bottling line with these bottles when one tipped it brought them all down. There was a lot of down time and staff were always having to be righting fallen bottles.”

The labels were pink because it was the favourite colour of SFW's chairman and pink was used to brand SFW, even to painting their delivery trucks what Duimpie called 'nipple pink'. The package was used until well into the seventies.

Second flight was from the Seventies.

Swartland Winery 1971

Golden red colour with lots of fine gritty sediment.
Sweet berry nose
Sweet berry fruit on palate, good body and a spicy long finish with some acids coming through at the end.
Very drinkable and enjoyable wine with long long aftertaste, though food is needed to alleviate acids at very end.

The wine was made at the Swartland Co-operative in Malmesbury but Gevul en Verouder (bottled and matured) by KWV in Paarl

Zonnebloem 1974

Premium brand for SFW, the grapes coming from Kanonkop and Bellevue.
Attractive red-gold colour, but acrid and acidic at first taste. There are some fruit and herb notes there, but too acidic and sour for me to enjoy.

Meerendal 1976

Meerendal was one of the pioneering Pinotage vineyards and I was looking forward to this wine which had a dark dense black red colour. However a stinky VA (volatile acidity) nose and an unpleasant sour taste showed this wine was spoilt and not drinkable

Stellenryk 1976

Pale, pinking at rim. An aged smell of sweet soft toffee. Restrained, not getting much flavour, some noticeable alcohol and stone developing at end.

Simonsig Estate 1978

Pale browning red colour with a shy, porty nose. Perky up-front fruit acids with caramel and a dusty wood tannin finish. A restrained wine whose fruit had declined.
Some tasters thought they detected Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine, but this was the only label which proclaimed it was "100% Pinotage", a statement that got Simonsig in trouble with the authorities at the time because of the implication that others were not. And indeed, the rules did not then, and still do not, require that a varietal contains nothing but the variety named on its label.

Zonnebloem 1984

Medium dark red, brown pink rim and a cheesy nose. Medium body with sweet thinning cherry and red plum fruits and a floral end that become attractively spicy on a very long finish.

Zonnebloem 1988

Red, brick rim, thin sweet nose, some grippy tannins and fresh fleshy fruits. Nice wine.

Kanonkop Estate CWG 1994

A barrel selection bottling for the Cape Winemakers Guild auction.
Purple dense opaque core, subdued nose, restrained and elegent.

Lavenir Estate CWG 1997

A barrel selection bottling for the Cape Winemakers Guild auction.

Deep red paleing at edge. Cherries on the nose, dense closed fruit at first opening out into ripe cherry flavours, lively acids and soft tannins, a very nicely balanced wine.

Kanonkop Estate 1999

Young purple colour, soft warm nose, generous rich sweet fruits of forest favours. It has a spicy almost Christmas cake richness.
I remember when this wine was first released thinking how soft and approachable it was, unusual in Kanonkop whose wines then needed some years in bottle to be approachable, and I though this was a slight wine that wouldn’t last and I didn’t buy any. I was so wrong. I’ve tasted this twice wine over the past couple of years and it is delicious.
Beyers recalled it had 18 months in 80% new oak, 20% second fill.

Kaapzicht Estate ‘Steytler’ 2001

Dense black with red rim that stains the glass, lively expressive fruits, spiciness and soft old leather, Delightful wine. 15%abv

Simonsig ‘Redhill’ 2003

Opaque purple black with sweet candy nose. Beautiful silky mouthfeel with flavours of black cherries and succulent plums. A rich opulent wine with dense fruit balanced by harmonious acids and tannins. This is a stunner, and my favourite drinking wine of the tasting, just ahead of the 1999 Kanonkop.

Beyerskloof ‘Diesel’ 2006

Bright cherry red colour. Tasting very young in the line-up, the “fruit and oak are still finding themselves” as Abrie Beeslaw, sitting next to me, put it. I think this wine suffers in comparison following the Simonsig and with some grippy tannins from its 21 months in new oak it is a work in progress needing more time.

16 November 2009

Lunch and Pinotage at Seidelberg Estate

Torrential rain of the past view days clears and so to Seidelberg Estate near Paarl for lunch. It’s too cool to sit outside but indoors there are open wood fires to take away the chill. And through the glass there is a terrific view over the valley.

Restaurant staff are friendly as is the menu with a range of traditional dishes each with an explanation of their construction and sometimes their history.

I plump for the Cape Malay chicken and yoghurt curry, my partner for the lamb curry (both 78R/£6.50/$13) and we share a starter of delicious delicate vegetable samosas (35R/£3/$6). The curries come in a bowl on a plate with a bowl of rice and a sambal of chopped tomato and cucumber. The waitron removes the very hot curry bowl with her bare hands and places it by the plate then the rice and raita so I can move spoonfuls of each onto the now empty plate as I wish.

Each dish has a recommended wine; Chardonnay is suggested for the chicken but I have a much better idea and order a glass of Pinotage.

The wine arrives cool, which is excellent as too many red wines are served too hot. On a hot day the wine would quickly warm up but today I cup it a little in my hands because the wine is not offering much at first.

This is not an ‘in-your-face’ wine, it’s serious and restrained with black cherry flavours at first then developing layers of complexity revealing seams of pepper and spices and some tannins. One glass is not enough and a second is ordered.

The curry comprises boneless chicken pieces in a thick red tomato based sauce with delicate spices but no chilli heat to speak of. The lamb curry also has potato chunks of which I am envious and I’d have liked some veggies in mine.

An excellent lunch and I call into the cellar burrowed into the valley side to buy a bottle of the Pinotage 2008 I have just drunk (30R/£2.50/$5 a glass, 95 R a bottle in the restaurant, 71R/£6/$12 a bottle ex-cellar) plus a bottle of the Roland’s Reserve 2007 Pinotage (123R/£10/$20 ex-cellar). Both wines are Estate Wine of Origin Paarl

14 November 2009

Beyerskloof in Telegraph'sTop 10

Number 3 in Jonathan Ray's list of South Africa's Top 10 wines for the Daily Telegraph is

2008 Beyerskloof Pinotage, 14%vol, South Africa (£5.99 if you buy 3, otherwise £8.99; Wine Rack)

Pinotage, a cross between cinsault and pinot noir, is South Africa's USP, loved for its fruit by some, dismissed as tired and redolent of burnt rubber by others. In the hands of Beyerskloof's Beyers Truter, one of the grape's most vociferous supporters, it works a dream. Here, his entry-level version is ripe, juicy and full of spicy plum fruit, with no hint of rubber. Enjoy with slow roast belly of pork.

read full list here


13 November 2009

Whales, Fish'n'Chips and .......

Hermanus is where the whales are and before spending some time viewing them from the rocks what is better than Rich Man’s Fish and Chips at the Marine Hotel?

But where is the Pinotage? I hear you ask. Top right, in the flute. We order, as usual, a bottle of Villiera Brut Tradition, a methode champenoise sparkler with an amazing amount of tiny bubbles that cease only on streaming up to explode on the surface when the glass is emptied. One of the components of this delightfully zesty toasty fizz is Pinotage.


12 November 2009

Stormhoek 2007

‘Made in Heaven’ it says the foot of this label. The Stormhoek brand now has two incarnations: rights to use the name in South Africa remain with Graham Knox who was one of its founders while abroad the brand name is owned by Origin Wines.

This is Knox’s Stormhoek. Jammy fruit is upfront, it is soft fat bodied with a tannic core. Ideal with a steak and for quaffing not pontificating about.

Stormhoek 2007
WO Western Cape
48 R (£5)

07 November 2009

Bertus Fourie on Barista Pinotage 09 (Video)

Michael Olivier talks to winemaker Bertus Fourie who invented the 'coffee Pinotage' category. Michael tastes his new 2009 Barista Pinotage.

Bertus describes the technique behind achieving this unique flavour profile, highlighting the fact that it can only be obtained with Pinotage.

Thanks to A Minute of Wine -- Your online home for films on South African Wine for sharing this clip with us.

(c) Copyright A Minute of Wine. Used with permission.

06 November 2009

False Bay Pinotage 2007

False Bay is an inexpensive export label made by Waterkloof at their impressive new winery perched on a high ridge overlooking False Bay.

The wine is light coloured bright red with high toned cherry flavours and a bite of acidity. WO Western Cape, 47 Rand (£3.90)from winery

04 November 2009

Is Coffee Pinotage really the best example of the variety?

Richard Hemming, tasting for Jancis Robinson's site seems to think so. He gave his highest score to Diemersfontein's coffee'n'chocolate Pinotage.

The original article is on the restricted part of Jancis's site but Grape magazine has been granted permission to reproduce it here.

Hemming tasted Pinotages at the recent South African Mega Tasting in London, however he doesn't appear to have tasted the 2009 Top 10 Winners from the Pinotage Association stand that I had the honour to staff.

They are considered to be the best Pinotages available and it no review of the variety can be considered comprehensive if missed when available.

03 November 2009

Southern Right Pinotage with owner Anthony Hamilton Russell (video)

Anthony Hamilton Russell is a passionate fan of Pinotage which he produces under two labels: Ashbourne and Southern Right. Here he talks about his belief in the variety, how it ages and how he is redefining Pinotage.

This is the last of a series of short videos taken at the Wines of South Africa Mega Tasting held in London in October.

02 November 2009

Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage by winemaker Corlea Fourie (video)

Corlea Fourie is winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington. Here she talks about their new 2008 vintage Pinotage.

01 November 2009

Diemersfontein Pinotage by owner David Sonnenberg (video)

David Sonnenberg, owner of Diermersfontein winery in Wellington which pioneered the popular 'coffee'n'chocolate' style of Pinotage, talks about how the wine has changed as it approaches its tenth aniversary.